|Day's range||307.00 - 307.00|
With the COVID-19 pandemic making work from home the default for those companies that are able to do so, it's no surprise that we are seeing a massive rise in the usage of video chat tools like Zoom, Google Meet and Teams. Back on March 16, the company reported 900 million meeting minutes in Teams. During those meetings, more users than ever also turned on their video cameras.
(Bloomberg) -- Facebook Inc. sued the founder of a software company for running deceptive advertisements on its social-media platforms, including links to investment scams and bogus information about the coronavirus pandemic.Basant Gajjar’s “LeadCloak” software, designed to circumvent automated review systems in Facebook and Instagram, baits users into clicking on links that are unrelated to the ad, according to the lawsuit filed Thursday in California. Facebook said the software pushed deceptive ads for diet pills and drugs and cryptocurrency investment scams.Gajjar, who was named as a defendant in the Facebook suit, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. He’s an Indian citizen residing in Thailand, according to the lawsuit.LeadCloak has also targeted other technology companies including Google, Oath, WordPress and Shopify, Facebook said in its lawsuit.Facebook has faced a surge in malicious actors seeking to take advantage of users’ desperation during the outbreak. In mid-March, the company banned deceptive ads touting protective masks. In many cases, the masks were faulty, overpriced or counterfeit versions of what physicians recommended.Still, it’s been difficult for Facebook to remove such ads from its social platforms. The company is relying more on automated systems to solve the problem, because many of its contractors can’t work on the problem from home, for privacy and legal reasons.Gajjar’s website advises advertisers to block Facebook and Google IP addresses to evade the companies’ review of non-compliant landing pages, Facebook said in its complaint. LeadCloak’s customers can sign up for a “pay-as-you-go” option or pay monthly fees between $399 and $1,999 to use Gajjar’s cloaking service, according to the lawsuit.Facebook said nearly 4,202 users clicked on an ad from late March showing an “innocuous” landing page promoting stainless steel spoons. It instead took them to “a fake news article that promoted bitcoin investments to counter the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and used the image of a local celebrity,” the company said.Facebook has asked the court to permanently block LeadCloak services and seeks damages, including compensation for resources spent to identify and stop Gajjar’s “injurious activities.”(Adds details on allegations and relief sought by Facebook)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- One weekend in March, Javier Soltero, a Google vice president, got an email from his team in Europe. Italy’s Minister of Education needed to move the country’s entire school system online, right away, and wanted to know if Google’s software could handle it.Soltero, who leads G Suite, Google’s set of productivity tools, called his technical staff. “Is this even something we can do?” he recalled thinking. Several sleepless days and nights later, millions of Italian kids were learning from home through Google services.As the month wore on, Soltero’s division faced similar surges in country after country. Schools and universities across the globe have rushed online as the coronavirus shut down public life. Many turned to the world’s largest internet company.“We have seen incredible growth,” Soltero said in a recent interview. “It actually mirrors, unfortunately, the ramp up and spread of the disease.”Alphabet Inc.’s Google has jumped ahead of its big technology peers in the education market in recent years by giving away software and aggressively courting teachers. The pandemic is entrenching the tech giant even further. Google Classroom, a free service teachers use to send out assignments and communicate with students, has doubled active users to more than 100 million since the beginning of March. That’s boosting other products. Meet, a videoconferencing app is being used 25 times as much as it was in January, and the broader G Suite for Education offering has 120 million users, up from 90 million a year ago.Google doesn’t charge most schools to use Classroom. The real prize is the millions of young people learning how to use its software. When those students enter the workforce, they’re likely to keep using paid versions, and encourage colleagues to adopt the tools, too.Google Classroom was already popular in the U.S., but demand is now coming from places with few customers before the virus, such as Italy and Indonesia, according to Avni Shah, Google’s vice president for education. “All these places were really lighting up in the last month,” she said.The company’s foothold in schools began around 2014. In the U.S., a new educational standard, called Common Core, was gaining steam and required online assessments. Google flooded schools with Chromebooks, laptops that run on the company’s Chrome operating system. They were cheaper than rival products from Apple Inc. and Microsoft Corp., and came with pre-installed Google apps including Gmail, Docs, Slides and Drive. Last year, Google commanded 60% of the market for education computers in the U.S., according to consultant Futuresource.Chromebooks were among the first in schools to connect to the cloud, making it easier for teachers and students to work and keep in touch from anywhere. That helped spread adoption, according to Mike Fisher, a Futuresource associate director.Google Classroom, similarly, is taking off because it’s relatively simple to use and flexible. It competes with dozens of other learning-management systems including Canvas and Edmodo, which let schools upload and track coursework. Classroom syncs with those systems and integrates with other school apps, which, like Google’s, are now booming. And crucially, Google’s product is free, while most competitors charge money for premium features.Makers of e-learning tools rely on portals like Classroom to get inside schools. Quizlet Inc., maker of software for studying, saw new signups jump as much as 400% in China and Italy as the coronavirus spread, said Chief Executive Officer Matthew Glotzbach. About 150 million of Quizlet’s study sessions last year came from Google Classroom, he noted.Google’s offering is also intuitive. Teachers new to remote learning are usually able to upload assignments quickly and launch video calls with little fuss, according to Fisher. “That solution, for the situation we’re in, is perfect,” he said.As schools around the world started closing over the first two weeks of March, Luke Craig, a teacher at Britannia Village Primary School in east London, saw what was coming. Craig and his colleagues used Google Sites, a web page-building tool, to set up a hub for their school and started practicing running classes through Google Classroom. A few days later, schools across the U.K. shut down.Now, Craig’s first-grade students open their Chromebooks and log into Google accounts for lessons. The Google Sites page lays out the plan for the day, and, depending on the subject, they use a variety of apps made by different companies, including Microsoft. Google Classroom is the central hub, allowing students to submit assignments and teachers to track progress. Another Google product, Jamboard, lets teachers create interactive lessons. Some of the kids, as young as 6 years old, have become so proficient they’re making their own videos detailing their assignments, Craig said.Google has experienced some problems bringing millions of students online so quickly. When schools first jumped on its Meet video-conferencing service, some kids figured out they could boot other participants from a call.“Students were kicking the teachers out and carrying on,” Craig said. Google heard the complaints, and fixed the issue quickly. The company has been rapidly building new features, thanks to hundreds of employees who volunteered to help the education team when the coronavirus started spreading widely, Shah said.Craig also warned that students who don’t have as much support from parents, or access to computers and the internet, could fall behind. “Without the face-to-face contact, it’s likely some kids will slip through the cracks,” he said.Google recently pledged to provide internet connections to as many as 100,000 households in California and distribute 4,000 Chromebooks to kids in need. That’s nowhere near enough resources to fill a growing digital divide in education, and doesn’t help Craig’s students in East London.Read more: U.S. Schools Trying to Teach Online Highlight a Digital DivideIn Italy, Google partnered with telecommunications companies so students can use a regular phone line to at least listen in to video conference calls with their teachers. The company designs its apps to work on cheap smartphones and to be used without a wireless connection, Shah said.There are also privacy concerns with so many more children getting online. In February, New Mexico’s attorney general sued Google, claiming the company was breaking child privacy laws by collecting data on students. When kids merge their school Google accounts with their personal ones, data could be synced and logged by Google for commercial purposes, the lawsuit argued. Google disputed the claims. A spokesperson for the company said it never uses student data to target ads, even after kids graduate and become adults.But it’s unlikely privacy concerns will hobble Google’s success during this crisis. Most school districts are desperate to get any online system up and running, ignoring some standard protocols for vetting services, said Douglas Levin, president of EdTech Strategies, a consulting company. “Those have been thrown out the window for expediency’s sake,” he said.Google may even benefit from the privacy failures of other companies. Zoom Video Communications Inc., maker of a suddenly popular video chat service, is now seeing some schools drop it after internet trolls started interrupting online meetings and broadcasting offensive content to participants.Craig has been spending the hours in between classes helping other schools get online. He’s one of thousands of teachers certified by Google to train others how to use the company’s software. The certification program has been a keystone of Google’s expansion, netting the company a group of people who use its products and encourage others to do the same.When schools finally re-open, the education world will be very different. Tech holdouts who resisted internet-based products like Google Classroom will have been forced to use them and adapt. Many schools without a home-learning system will have one. Students lucky enough to have internet at home will have months of experience learning online.“All those technology-phobic people will be no more. They will not go back to their pencil and paper,” said Melissa Matthews, a technology program specialist for the school district of Palm Beach County in Florida. “I don’t foresee Google Classroom getting any fewer users come August when everyone goes back to school.”(Updates with G Suite for Education number in fifth paragraph.)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- A conspiracy theory linking 5G technology to the outbreak of the coronavirus is quickly gaining momentum, with celebrities including actor Woody Harrelson promoting the idea. But the theory is also getting a boost from what some researchers say is a coordinated disinformation campaign.Marc Owen Jones, a researcher at Hamad bin Khalifa University in Qatar, who specializes in online disinformation networks, analyzed 22,000 recent interactions on Twitter mentioning “5G” and “corona,” and said he found a large number of accounts displaying what he termed “inauthentic activity.” He said the effort bears some hallmarks of a state-backed campaign.“There are very strong indications that some of these accounts are a disinformation operation,” Jones said.Jones said the campaign uses a strategy similar to Russia’s Internet Research Agency, which was behind a disinformation campaign during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign. But he said he hasn’t yet concluded that Russia, or any other government or organization, is behind the effort.Blackbird.AI, a New York-based company that monitors online disinformation campaigns, said it had in recent weeks identified a surge in the number of social media posts promoting the 5G conspiracy theory. In the previous 24 hours, there had been more than 50,000 posts about the topic on Twitter and Reddit, Naushad UzZaman, the company’s chief technology officer and co-founder, said on Wednesday.There has been a “significant uptick in inauthentic amplification” of posts on social media linking 5G to the coronavirus, UzZaman said, indicating that there could be a coordinated campaign and bot accounts involved. The company says it uses a system that analyzes language, communication patterns, post volumes and bot activity in order to identify social media posts that are “inauthentic” and attempting to manipulate online discussion.Blackbird.AI hasn’t determined who is behind the effort, nor have the researchers at the Global Disinformation Index, a non-profit that tracks disinformation online. “We’ve definitely seen plenty of organized disinfo around 5G-coronavirus,” said Danny Rogers, the index’s co-founder.False stories on social media can be disseminated broadly by both government and non-government groups -- with bot accounts available for purchase or rental online, said Lee Foster, a senior manager at the cybersecurity firm FireEye Inc. “The barriers to entry are really low, so any number of actors can replicate the same kind of techniques.”Ali Tehrani, founder and chief executive officer of Astroscreen, a London-based company that monitors social media manipulation, said there was a concerted effort by suspicious accounts to amplify the 5G conspiracy theory on social media, which was mixed with a much larger number of genuine accounts circulating the claims.“We’ve seen accounts that you could say are inauthentic and coordinated promoting the 5G conspiracy, but I think the bigger problem right now is high-profile individuals spreading misleading information,” he said.Twitter declined to comment. A Reddit spokesperson said the company was focused on “connecting people with authoritative content and experts” and has dedicated teams that “detect and mitigate attempts at manipulating content.”Conspiracy theories about health risks associated with 5G have circulated since at least 2016. They were first spread on internet forums and YouTube, and were later picked up by the website InfoWars and Russian state broadcaster RT, which published stories cautioning that 5G could be “a global catastrophe,” causing cancer in humans and wildlife.Earlier this year, as Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, began to spread from China to the rest of the world, fringe groups began claiming that the virus was linked to 5G technology. The claims may have originated with comments made by a doctor in Belgium, saying he believed 5G was “life-threatening” and connected to the coronavirus, while noting that he had “not done a fact-check,” according to an article in Wired magazine. The newspaper that printed his comments retracted the story, but that didn’t stop the conspiracy theory from gaining traction.Some celebrities -- including the singer M.I.A. and the actor John Cusack -- have fanned the flames, posting suggestions on social media that 5G is linked to the spread of the virus or otherwise poses health risks. Meanwhile, users of online forums such as 4chan have encouraged people to vandalize 5G equipment.In recent days, at least 20 mobile phone masts have been attacked in the U.K., some set on fire, and British telecommunications companies have issued statements saying the 5G conspiracy theory has led to abuse of their employees. Some users of 4chan celebrated the news that 5G mobile phone masts had been targeted by arsonists and encouraged copycat actions.There is no scientific basis for the concerns, according to Simon Clarke, associate professor in cellular microbiology at the University of Reading. “The idea that Covid-19 is caused by 5G mobile phone signals is complete rubbish,” said Clarke. “5G radio signals are electromagnetic waves, very similar to those already used by mobile phones. Electromagnetic waves are one thing, viruses are another, and you can’t get a virus off a phone mast.”Some social media companies have taken action to limit the spread of coronavirus conspiracy theories on their platforms. On Tuesday, Google’s YouTube said that it would ban all videos linking 5G technology to coronavirus, saying that “any content that disputes the existence or transmission of Covid-19” would now be in violation of YouTube policies.In the U.K., a parliamentary committee on Monday called on the British government to do more to “stamp out” coronavirus conspiracy theories, and said it was planning to hold a hearing later this year at which representatives from U.S. technology giants will be asked about how they have handled the spread of disinformation on their platforms.“If they don’t sort situations like this quickly, they are going to end up with a worldwide regulatory regime,” Julian Knight, a conservative member of parliament who heads the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, said in an interview. “They have a duty of care to wider society, they have skin in the game -- particularly during a viral outbreak, which can affect anyone at any time.”(Updates with comments from Astroscreen CEO starting in ninth paragraph.)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
To stay connected amid the coronavirus-induced lockdown, people across the world are relying heavily on the Internet, which brightens up prospects for cloud players.
(Bloomberg) -- The bad news is well-known: The coronavirus pandemic could spark the deepest economic downturn of our lifetimes — something between the Great Recession and the Great Depression.Here’s the good news: If countries cooperate and keep their markets open, they could quickly rebound and avoid a repetition of the two darkest economic periods of the past century.That was the message World Trade Organization Director-General Roberto Azevedo delivered Wednesday from his residence on the outskirts of Geneva.During an extraordinary YouTube webcast, Azevedo offered an exit strategy for nations looking to regain their post-pandemic economic footing:Provide a robust fiscal stimulus package to consumers and businesses Contain the health crisis as expeditiously as possible Coordinate international efforts to limit trade restrictionsThat third part is crucial, he said, because “a turn towards protectionism would introduce new shocks on top of those we are currently enduring.”Right now some 70 nations — including the U.S., China and much of Europe — are imposing export curbs on critical medical supplies, according to the University of St. Gallen’s Global Trade Alert.These measures, the nations say, are essential to protect the health of their citizens and first responders. But some restrictions struggle to pass the smell test.Protectionism might be a natural instinct in a health crisis that respects no borders, but like consumer hoarding, it can cause more harm to the greater good. A far better way to propel rapid global economic recovery is for nations to cooperate and avoid unnecessary barriers to trade, Azevedo argued.Global markets should remain free of restrictions “so that we pull each other up and not hold each other down,” he said.While it’s too soon to say if Azevedo’s call for unity will fully resonate with world leaders, President Donald Trump nodded in that direction Wednesday.In a tweet, Trump thanked Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for releasing stocks of an anti-malarial drug for possible treatment of the disease.“Extraordinary times require even closer cooperation between friends,” Trump wrote, just two days before a U.S. ban on exports of some personal protective equipment takes effect.Charting the Trade TurmoilThe coronavirus pandemic may cause a deeper collapse of international trade flows than at any point in the postwar era, the World Trade Organization said. The Geneva-based trade body presented two possible scenarios: In an optimistic case, the WTO forecasts global merchandise trade may fall 13% in 2020, while the pessimistic case sees those volumes drop by 32% this year.Today’s Must ReadsNo paychecks | Japan’s three biggest automakers are poised to add almost 32,000 people to the unprecedented ranks of North American workers seeking unemployment benefits. Export ban | The U.S. government’s ban on exports of some personal protective equipment to fight the virus will take effect Friday and will be in place for four months. Output cut | Airbus slashed its aircraft output by a third to about 48 planes a month, in a stark concession to the pandemic and travel restrictions rocking the aviation industry. Labor supply | Poland has leaned in recent years on more than a million workers from Ukraine to sustain its economy. The coronavirus is shaking up that relationship. Not so handy | Hand sanitizer will be hard to find in the U.S. for a long time because there aren’t enough chemicals and plastic containers to meet demand. Stephanomics podcast | Senior trade reporter Shawn Donnan explains how the pandemic has shifted his focus from debates about globalization to looking at the damage happening on the ground right now. Bloomberg AnalysisBritain’s labor woes | Unemployment in the U.K. may have jumped to 6.3% from 3.9%, Bloomberg Economics estimates. Brazil challenge | Coronavirus hits Brazil where it hurts the most, turning already-tepid growth into a recession. Use the AHOY function to track global commodities trade flows. See BNEF for BloombergNEF’s analysis of clean energy, advanced transport, digital industry, innovative materials, and commodities. Click VRUS on the terminal for news and data on the coronavirus and here for maps and charts.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
France's competition authority ruled on Thursday that Google must pay French publishing companies and news agencies for re-using their content. The U.S. tech firm said it would comply with the French competition authority verdict, which followed a complaint by unions representing French press publishers. "Google's practices caused a serious and immediate harm to the press sector, while the economic situation of publishers and news agencies is otherwise fragile," France's 'Autorite de la Concurrence' said in a statement.
(Bloomberg) -- There has been concern for months in Silicon Valley that the eventual Democratic presidential candidate would be someone who wanted to break up large technology companies. Bernie Sanders’s decision Wednesday to end his campaign effectively ends that scenario, leaving a presumptive nominee—former vice president Joe Biden—who is comparatively content with the way Silicon Valley does business.The turn in the primary race corresponds with an upheaval in political priorities due to the Covid-19 crisis. It’s still uncertain how the aftermath of the pandemic will play out, but the political landscape the industry faces in 2020 has almost certainly been transformed over the last six weeks.The primary process first took a hostile turn to the tech industry last spring when Senator Elizabeth Warren proposed a plan to force Amazon.com Inc., Alphabet Inc. and Facebook Inc. to spin off parts of their businesses. Sanders, the democratic socialist senator from Vermont, later said he would “absolutely” aim to break up large technology companies if elected. At the same time, multiple investigations into allegations of anticompetitive behavior from large technology companies were accelerating.For his part, Biden has called it “premature” to call for breaking up companies like Facebook. The former vice president has criticized tech companies and their leaders, particularly Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, telling the New York Times editorial board that he had “never been a big Zuckerberg fan.” In the same interview, Biden suggested revoking Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a law protecting tech companies from legal liability for what their users post. The industry has made defending the law one of its top political priorities.But Biden’s attacks have never provoked the concerns as those from Sanders and Warren. He has deep ties to the tech industry; his former director of communications, Jay Carney, is now Amazon’s top spokesman. Biden has also repeatedly framed his administration as a continuation of the Obama years, and several former Obama officials have set up shop in Silicon Valley.While the tech industry rank-and-file mostly donated to the industry’s antagonists, its executives seemed most excited about younger moderates Pete Buttigieg and Cory Booker. Biden is a happy consolation prize.An open question is who Biden surrounds himself with now that he seems to have locked up the nomination. Neither Warren nor Sanders has endorsed him, and may hold out to push Biden to pick staff supporting their priorities.The anti-tech momentum may also fade because of the coronavirus pandemic. While state and federal antitrust investigations will continue, new antitrust rules will likely take a back seat to more economic rescue legislation. Tech services seem even more vital when large swaths of the population are confined to their houses. And Google, Facebook, Apple Inc., and others have been quick to offer help in various ways.President Donald Trump has been vocally critical of technology companies, and he’s widely unpopular among tech workers. He has regularly called for crackdowns on social media companies and other perceived enemies in the industry. But his top policy achievement, a major corporate tax cut, helped send tech stock prices soaring. (They have since come back down after coronavirus fears have sunk the entire market.) Trump has also seemed to pick favorites among the tech sector, cozying up to Oracle Corp. and Apple, while repeatedly criticizing Amazon and Facebook.Silicon Valley voters generally lean Democratic. But it’s even harder than usual to predict what the upcoming election will look like. Even basic questions about the mechanics of voting remain unresolved. But for now, the things the tech industry was worried about at the beginning of this year seem like a distant memory.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Wednesday approved Alphabet Inc unit Google's request to use part of an U.S.-Asia undersea telecommunications cable after the company warned it would face significantly higher prices to carry traffic by other means. Google agreed to operate a portion of the 8,000-mile Pacific Light Cable Network System between the United States and Taiwan, but not Hong Kong. Google and Facebook Inc helped pay for construction of the now completed telecommunications link but U.S. regulators have blocked its use.
(Bloomberg) -- Zoom Chief Executive Officer Eric Yuan pledged that his company will meet the highest security standards, seeking to put millions of new users at ease after numerous security lapses on the video-meeting application.Zoom Video Communications Inc. is launching a feature called Security that sets all privacy settings to their highest level, including putting passwords on meetings and employing waiting rooms that force meeting hosts to filter conference attendees, Yuan said Wednesday on a webinar. The San Jose, California-based company also is planning to roll out upgraded encryption for its video calls and meeting rooms for large webinars. “Zoom is safe compared to peers,” Yuan said. “We are determined to do better and hold ourselves to the highest standard on security and privacy.”Zoom has never sold user data and never will, he said.The security webinar was part of Yuan’s mea culpa campaign to rebuild trust with the more than 200 million users who’ve turned to Zoom amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Zoom was sued by a shareholder Tuesday who alleged the company fraudulently concealed its lack of end-to-end encryption and its data transmissions to Facebook, just one of several lawsuits that have sprouted during the revelations about the software maker’s privacy problems. The steps to bolster security weren’t enough to allay concerns at Google, which is trying to move employees away from Zoom. The Alphabet Inc. company, which has a rival product called Meet, deactivated the Zoom app on its employees’ work computers.“We have long had a policy of not allowing employees to use unapproved apps for work that are outside of our corporate network,” Google spokesman Jose Castaneda said in an emailed statement. “Recently, our security team informed employees using Zoom Desktop Client that it will no longer run on corporate computers as it does not meet our security standards for apps used by our employees. Employees who have been using Zoom to stay in touch with family and friends can continue to do so through a web browser or via mobile.”Google’s policy was reported earlier by Buzzfeed News.Earlier Wednesday, Zoom announced it had hired Facebook Inc.’s former security chief Alex Stamos as an adviser and formed a security council to help guide its next steps. Before its recent surge in popularity, Zoom had focused primarily on corporate communications.“I am attracted to difficult problems, and this creates some doozies,” Stamos, now director at Stanford University’s Internet Observatory, wrote Wednesday in a blog post. “The adaptation of a successful enterprise collaboration tool into virtual classrooms, virtual doctor’s offices and a myriad of other applications (including at least one virtual Cabinet Room) has created privacy, trust and safety challenges that no company has ever faced.”The company, Stamos added, “has some important work to do in core application security, cryptographic design and infrastructure security, and I’m looking forward to working with Zoom’s engineering teams on those projects.”Zoom’s shares had jumped as much as 11% Wednesday before giving back most of those gains on news of Google’s decision. The stock increased 3.6% to $117.81 at the close in New York and has jumped 73% this year.(Updates with Google’s decision to restrict Zoom use for employees in the sixth paragraph.)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
Users can access Stadia by downloading the app on their iOS or Android phones or by signing up on its website. The paid version, Stadia Pro, otherwise costs $9.99 a month and offers access to games such as "GRID" and "Destiny 2: The Collection" in 4K resolution. Google's Stadia, launched https://www.reuters.com/article/us-alphabet-google-stadia/google-enters-gaming-with-cloud-based-streaming-service-stadia-idUSKBN1XT2L2 in November, is expected to compete with Microsoft Corp's upcoming Project xCloud.
(Bloomberg) -- Alphabet Inc.’s Wing unit is seeing a dramatic increase in the number of customers using its drone delivery service in rural Virginia during the Covid-19 pandemic.Wing, which began routine deliveries under a test program approved by the federal government last October, has added new vendors and expanded the items customers can order to better serve people during the epidemic, the company said in a statement Wednesday.“The technology is particularly useful at a time when people are homebound in many cases and the need to limit human-to-human contact is important,” spokesman Jonathan Bass said in an interview.Deliveries have more than doubled in the Christiansburg, Virginia, area where the U.S. test is being conducted and in a similar project in Australia, Bass said.In addition to partnerships with FedEx Corp. and the Walgreens drug-store chain, Wing recently began deliveries from a bakery and a coffee shop.Mockingbird Cafe sold 50% more pastries through Wing’s drones in its first weekend with the company than it typically sold in its store prior to the virus-related business disruptions.Deliveries from Walgreens have included toilet paper, medicine and toothpaste, the company said. They recently added items such as pasta and baby food to meet demands of people staying home.While the payload of Wing’s autonomous drones is limited, orders are fulfilled within minutes, Bass said.The program is being run in the community around Christianburg. Wing is working with nearby Virginia Tech, which has a drone-test program approved by the Federal Aviation Administration.Amazon.com Inc., United Parcel Service Inc. and many smaller companies are also experimenting with the concept of drone deliveries.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
(Bloomberg) -- On March 24, Jeffrey VanWingen, a family physician in Grand Rapids, Michigan, posted his first-ever video to YouTube. VanWingen, decked out in medical scrubs in his kitchen, spent 13 minutes explaining how to disinfect a cereal box, a carton of broth, and some broccoli, while a masked friend filmed him from a safe distance. He gave it a title likely to show up in anxious web searches: “PSA Grocery Shopping Tips in COVID-19.” Within a week, the video had over 20 million views, and VanWingen was fielding calls from across the world to translate it into other languages. By then, it was too late to alter the ninth minute, when VanWingen tossed bags of apples and oranges into a sink of soapy water—something scientists say could cause more harm than good. He tried futilely to contact YouTube to edit that portion out of the video. He settled on inserting a disclaimer: “Correction: Rinse fruits and vegetables with water—no soap.”Millions of people have been frantically scouring the internet in recent weeks for health advice, turning doctors like VanWingen into YouTube’s newest, unexpected stars—and putting significant weight behind their recommendations. “I’m not tech savvy and I am not vain. I just wanted to help people,” he said in a phone interview. “With something like this pandemic, there's no guidebook.”VanWingen didn’t tout an experimental drug or a “silver solution” as cures for Covid-19, and didn’t blame the spread of the virus on 5G networks – all claims that have appeared on YouTube. But his video, coming from a medical professional, did create alarm in a way that some viewed as irresponsible. “He’s treating handling your groceries like doing open heart surgery,” Donald Schaffner, a biologist at Rutgers University. “He’s giving people panic attacks.” There is no evidence that Covid-19 is transmitted through food or grocery packaging, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The World Health Organization has described the overabundance of covid-related communication online as an “infodemic,” making it hard for people to find credible information within the deluge. YouTube is relying on a secretive ranking system to separate legitimate medical advice from quackery. The choices aren’t always straightforward. The site has to decide how to handle videos from experts on contested medical topics or posts, like VanWingen’s, that are popular and useful but also contain seemingly honest mistakes. It’s even harder to know where to set boundaries when official opinion on subjects like whether people wearing masks in public is still in flux.A big part of YouTube’s solution is an authoritativeness score, an algorithm that gleans the credibility of people who post videos about news events and certain topics including health. The company has said it surfaces videos from news outlets, hospitals and “experts” to viewers most often. Videos from creators with lower scores aren’t necessarily taken down, but are punished by YouTube’s automated system for video recommendation. YouTube relies on medical doctors to review videos about medical treatments. Its process often includes multiple layers of review, a company spokeswoman said, but she wouldn’t name the doctors or say how many are involved. Even video creators that YouTube actively promotes during the pandemic, like Mikhail “Doctor Mike” Varshavski, who has some 5.5 million followers, know little about the process. “I don't know what my score is,” he said. “Honestly, it’s really confusing to us as creators.”Roger Seheult, a California pulmonologist, produces MedCram, an eight-year old YouTube page that, before January, posted mostly arcane lectures for medical students. Then Seheult turned to the coronavirus, posting dozens of dispatches on the outbreak. Traffic exploded. One of his most popular videos, with over a million views, is a seventeen-minute clip from March 10 in which he says he is “cautiously optimistic” about hydroxychloroquine, a malaria drug U.S. President Donald Trump has suggested as a coronavirus treatment, with mixed scientific support. In the video, Seheult reads through several medical studies and reports about the experimental drug. He ends the video by saying randomized control trials on hydroxychloroquine are still needed. In an interview, Seheult said he believes the drug’s potential benefits outweigh the risks “for many patients under my care.” Like other social-media platforms, YouTube was criticized in recent years for the way its recommendation engine promoted conspiracy theories about health, particularly those raising suspicions about vaccines. Since then, YouTube has worked to remove false claims from search results and recommendations. It now puts a link to health organizations and Google’s own virus information page below every clip about coronavirus and has instituted a policy to remove videos “promoting medically unsubstantiated” prevention and treatment. YouTube pulled down two clips from Brazil’s president for breaking that rule and has removed “thousands” more, according to the company.But wavs of new footage about the virus is posted to YouTube daily, even as Google’s own shift to remote work has led it to reduce its staff for content moderation.An added moderation challenge is that it isn’t immediately apparent some problematic videos are connected to coronavirus. Searches for chloroquine and other experimental treatments produce videos from YouTubers, some of them claiming to be doctors, who only recently joined the site. YouTube hosts pages and pages of videos filed under the hashtag FilmYourHospital, a viral stunt that encourages people to shoot footage suggesting the virus is a hoax. State officials have warned hospitals about the trend. Sheltered in Michigan, VanWingen spent hours on the phone trying to get in touch with someone at YouTube to cut out the soap washing part. (As a rule, YouTube lets creators change text but not video content after uploading.) YouTube didn’t promote his video on its newly created news section for the virus or widely in its recommendations, according to the company, but the clip still continued to spread on its own. Ultimately, he posted a revised version of his PSA a week later, shorter and more “toned down.” It only received a fraction of the original’s traffic.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
Autonomous delivery startup Nuro has been granted a permit to begin driverless testing on California's public roads, paving the way for the company to roll out commercial operations throughout the state. Nuro, which raised $940 million from SoftBank Vision Fund last year, is allowed to put two of its low-speed electric R2 delivery vehicles on public roads in parts of Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, according to the California Department of Motor Vehicles, the agency that regulates autonomous vehicle testing in the state. The driverless permit allows the vehicles to operate at a maximum speed of 25 mph and only in fair weather conditions on streets with a speed limit of no more than 35 mph, the DMV said Tuesday.
(Bloomberg) -- Nuro Inc. has won permission to test driverless, low-speed delivery vehicles in the San Francisco Bay Area, becoming the second company to allowed to operate on public roads without a driver.The startup backed by SoftBank Group Corp. received approval from the California Department of Motor Vehicles on Tuesday, after the agency granted a driverless testing permit to Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo unit. More than 60 other companies hold permits from the state to test autonomous vehicles with a safety driver behind the wheel.“The Covid-19 pandemic has expedited the public need for contactless delivery services,” David Estrada, Nuro’s chief policy officer, said in a blog post. “Our R2 fleet is custom-designed to change the very nature of driving and the movement of goods by allowing people to remain safely at home while their groceries, medicines, and packages are brought to them.”The permit allows Nuro to test two of its purpose-built, driverless delivery vehicles -- dubbed the R2 -- in parts of nine Silicon Valley cities on roads with speed limits of 35 miles per hour or less, according to the agency. The vehicles are designed to go no faster than 25 miles per hour.The testing permit will also allow the company to make deliveries for local businesses, Estrada said.“The safety of the motoring public is the DMV’s top priority, and we do not give out these permits lightly,” California DMV Director Steve Gordon said in a statement. “Nuro has met the DMV’s requirements to receive this permit to test their driverless delivery vehicles on California’s public roads.”For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: Teladoc Health, Zoom Video Communications, Microsoft and Alphabet
Facebook (FB) boosts user location data collection initiatives to help researchers understand and derive measures to combat coronavirus outbreak.
During his daily White House appearances, President Trump has not shied away from calling out companies by name. Here’s a running tally of the companies he’s focused most of his attention on.